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Also Known As: William M. Hurt Died:
Born: March 20, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Washington, Washington D.C., USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The textbook model of the sensitive leading man, Oscar-winning actor William Hurt was a major player in 1980s cinema who was typically cast as a detached intellectual type and easily at his best playing characters who were physically or emotionally damaged. Reputed for his mercurial temperament both on and off the set, Hurt maintained somewhat of a contentious relationship with Hollywood for most of his career, but nonetheless came to attention opposite Kathleen Turner in the steamy "Body Heat" (1981), before standing out in the ensemble cast of Lawrence Kasdan's classic drama "The Big Chill" (1983). Following his breakthrough role as a flamboyantly gay window dresser in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985), Hurt was vaulted to the upper tier of Hollywood leading men. He earned more critical acclaim for "Children of a Lesser God" (1986) and "Broadcast News" (1987) before falling off the radar for a time with supporting roles in less-than-stellar projects like "I Love You to Death" (1990), "Mr. Wonderful" (1993) and "Michael" (1996). Bowing down to Hollywood as the star of the disappointing big screen adaptation of "Lost in Space" (1998), Hurt recovered with a brief, but Oscar-nominated performance in...

The textbook model of the sensitive leading man, Oscar-winning actor William Hurt was a major player in 1980s cinema who was typically cast as a detached intellectual type and easily at his best playing characters who were physically or emotionally damaged. Reputed for his mercurial temperament both on and off the set, Hurt maintained somewhat of a contentious relationship with Hollywood for most of his career, but nonetheless came to attention opposite Kathleen Turner in the steamy "Body Heat" (1981), before standing out in the ensemble cast of Lawrence Kasdan's classic drama "The Big Chill" (1983). Following his breakthrough role as a flamboyantly gay window dresser in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985), Hurt was vaulted to the upper tier of Hollywood leading men. He earned more critical acclaim for "Children of a Lesser God" (1986) and "Broadcast News" (1987) before falling off the radar for a time with supporting roles in less-than-stellar projects like "I Love You to Death" (1990), "Mr. Wonderful" (1993) and "Michael" (1996). Bowing down to Hollywood as the star of the disappointing big screen adaptation of "Lost in Space" (1998), Hurt recovered with a brief, but Oscar-nominated performance in "A History of Violence" (2005). With his wounded portrayal of a scientist grieving the murder of his wife on the second season of "Damages" (FX, 2007-2010) and his portrayal of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), Hurt cemented his reputation as a passionate artist more concerned with creating great roles than churning out "bland pabulum for the masses."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
5.
 Winter's Tale (2014)
7.
 Host, The (2013)
8.
 Late Bloomers (2012)
9.
 Too Big to Fail (2011)
10.
 Moby Dick (2010)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to Upper West Side Manhattan with mother and brothers when mother remarried
1972:
Briefly spent time on a sheep farm in Australia
1975:
Joined Oregon Shakespeare Festival
1976:
New York stage debut, "Henry V" for New York Shakespeare Festival
1977:
Appeared on PBS series "The Best of Families" for Children's Television Workshop
1977:
Became member of off-Broadway Circle Repertory Theatre
1978:
TV movie debut "Verna: USO Girl" for PBS "Great Performances"
1980:
Made feature acting debut in leading role of "Altered States"
1981:
First film with writer-director Lawrence Kasdan, "Body Heat" co-starring Kathleen Turner
1983:
Acted in all-star ensemble drama "The Big Chill"; second collaboration with Kasdan
1984:
Created the role of Eddie in David Rabe's off-Broadway play "Hurlyburly"; also played role on Broadway
1985:
Offered award-winning performance opposite Raúl Juliá in "Kiss of the Spider Woman"
1986:
Portrayed a teacher at a school for the hearing-impaired in "Children of a Lesser God"
1987:
Played a shallow TV newscaster in James L. Brooks' "Broadcast News"
1988:
Reunited with Lawrence Kasdan and Kathleen Turner for "The Accidental Tourist"
1989:
Returned to Circle Rep to play leading role in off-Broadway comedy-drama "Beside Herself"
1990:
Played supporting role in Kasdan directed "I Love You to Death"
1990:
Cast in Woody Allen's "Alice" as Mia Farrow's husband
1991:
First non-U.S. production, Wim Wenders' "Until the End of the World"
1992:
First film with Sandrine Bonnaire, "The Plague"
1995:
Won praise for his turn in independent film "Smoke"
1996:
Played a cynical tabloid reporter in "Michael"
1998:
Headed cast of feature adaptation of TV series "Lost in Space"
1998:
Co-starred with Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger in "One True Thing"
2000:
Portrayed a Communist flunky in "Sunshine"
2000:
Starred as Duke Leto Atreides in Sci Fi Channel miniseries "Frank Herbert's Dune"
2001:
Cast as a scientist in Steven Spielberg's "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence"
2002:
Appeared as Samuel L. Jackson's AA sponsor in "Changing Lanes"
2002:
Portrayed Angus Tuck in family feature "Tuck Everlasting"
2004:
Starred opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Sigourney Weaver in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village"
2005:
Starred with Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello in David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence"
2005:
Co-starred with George Clooney and Matt Damon in geopolitical thriller "Syriana"
2006:
Co-starred with Gael García Bernal in "The King," a low-budget American film by British documentary-maker James Marsh
2006:
Played a CIA director opposite Matt Damon in Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd"
2007:
Portrayed Kevin Costner's alter-ego in thriller "Mr. Brooks"
2007:
Played the father of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) in Sean Penn's adaptation of non-fiction book "Into the Wild"
2008:
Cast as the U.S. president in the Rashomon-style assassination thriller "Vantage Point"
2008:
Cast as Betty Ross' father General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross in "The Incredible Hulk"
2009:
Joined second season of FX's "Damages" as the new client of attorney Patty Hewes (Glenn Close)
2010:
Cast opposite Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's adaptation of "Robin Hood"
2011:
Portrayed U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson in HBO adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's book "Too Big To Fail"
2013:
Cast opposite Saoirse Ronan in sci-fi romance "The Host," adapted from novel by Stephenie Meyer
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Middlesex Prepatory School: Middlesex , Massachusetts -
Tufts University: Medford , Massachusetts - 1972
The Juilliard School: New York , New York - 1972 - 1975

Notes

In 1988, Hurt became the first recipient of the Spencer Tracy Award presented by UCLA.

"[Hurt] was one of the most passionate, intelligent, mad people I've ever met in my life."---"Altered States" co-star Blair Brown to Premiere, October 1997.

"The most complicated man I ever met. Someone I would not want to live with again."---Marlee Matlin on William Hurt.

"I think it is an interesting and important ritual, the putting on of a mask. There's something sacred about it. The lights go out and the subject is considered by all together, it's a special moment, it's a special time. I respect that event. It doesn't seem to me that people are very good at understanding anything, and we're certainly no good at controlling things. We're not talented as a race that way. But we are remarkably sensitive creatures! We're unbelievably well designed witnesses, that must be our beauty. And we also have another ability, which doesn't seem to hurt anyone when it's done well or correctly, which is to express that."---William Hurt quoted by Susan Linfield in "Zen and the Art of Film Acting" American Film, July/August 1986.

"The mask is everything... I wish I could take huge physical risks in films. "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is about as extensive as I have been allowed to do in movies. I wanted to do twice as much in "Spider Woman". I wanted him to start out almost as a harpy, like a Medusa, then become a true queen. I had a whole physical idea in my mind, but I wasn't allowed to do it as flagrantly as I would have liked. I think I could have pulled it off believably, but it's really hard to get people to accept that."---William Hurt, interviewed by Don Shewey in "Caught in the Act" New York: New American Library 1986

"You have to create a track record of breaking your own mold, or at least other people's idea of that mold."---William Hurt quoted in The New York Times, September 1994.

From "Zen and the Art of Film Acting" by Susan Linfield, American Film, July/August 1986

Question: "What about Molina in 'Spider Woman'? That's a role that I think a lot of people would not have touched."

Hurt: "I can't understand why. To me it's much harder to be mediocre. My image is of a horse that wants to run, and the rider keeps pulling on the reins so hard that the horse's head gets turned in on itself. It's awful. It's a horrible thing to go through or do to an animal. It's happened to me. Because sometimes I feel like a horse. I want to run!"

"... in his soul [he] is a truly conflicted, turbulent human being. Not in the way lots of actors seek to be, because they find the notion of torment romantic. He is that, plain and simple."---Madeleine Stowe to Movieline, February 1998.

"Sometimes they get a little intimidated, but you just have to reduce that. You have to stop that. Your job is not to intimidate people, it's to prove your trustworthiness, and you do that by doing the best work you know how to do and by respecting them."---Hurt on how his craft and reputation affect other actors to Rarebirdsmovie.com, February 11, 2002.

"Sometimes people call me a success for all the reasons that make me think I'm a failure. Being famous is not something that would make me feel successful, unless one was striving for mediocrity. Being a father, being a friend, those are the things that make me feel successful."---Hurt to Tufts e-news, March 11, 2002.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Mary Beth Hurt. Actor. Married in 1972; separated in 1977; divorce finalized in December 1982; later married director Paul Schrader.
companion:
Glenn Close. Actor. Had brief relationship.
companion:
Sandra Jennings. Ballerina. Together 1981-84; born c. 1956; was formerly with the New York City Ballet; met Hurt during the summer stock season at Saratoga Springs in 1981; filed much-publicized palimony and child custody suit against Hurt in 1989; in February 1991 NY Court of Appeals upheld a decision that Hurt did not have a common-law marriage with Jennings; trial testimony revealed that Hurt paid Jennings $64,000 annually.
companion:
Marlee Matlin. Actor. Starred in "Children of a Lesser God" (1986); lived together with Hurt in 1986.
wife:
Heidi Hurt. Married on March 4, 1989; born c. 1962; met Hurt while they were both undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Center City MN at the Hazelden treatment center; daughter of bandleader Skitch Henderson; filed for divorce August 1992; divorced in the fall of 1993.
companion:
Sandrine Bonnaire. Actor. Together since c. 1991 when they appeared together in "The Plague" (1992); gave birth to daughter Jeanne c. February 1994.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Claire McGill. Went to work at Time Inc. after her 1956 divorce from Hurt's father; met and married Henry Luce III in 1960; died of pancreatic cancer in 1972 at age 47.
step-father:
Henry Luce III. Son of founder of Time Inc.; married Hurt's mother in 1960.
brother:
James Hurt. Investor. Younger; born c. 1951.
son:
Alexander Devon Hurt. Born in January 1983; mother, Sandra Jennings.
son:
Samuel Hurt. Born on August 7, 1989; mother, Heidi Henderson; Hurt has custody.
son:
William Hurt. Born c. 1991; mother, Heidi Henderson Hurt has custody.
daughter:
Jeanne Hurt. Born c. February 1994; mother, Sandrine Bonnaire.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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